The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), an umbrella body of lawyers in the West African country has instituted legal proceedings against President Muhammadu Buhari over the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
In a suit filed at the Lagos division of the Federal High Court, the NBA also sued the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) stating that the government-owned agency and the country’s leader “gravely infringed the fundamental rights” of the professional association.
Sued along with President Buhari and the NCC in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/613/2021 are the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Communications and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
The NBA in a statement by its publicity secretary, Raps Nduka, on Tuesday, said that it had filed the suit on June 18, about two weeks after the government announced the Twitter ban on June 4.
The professional association also argues that no law criminalises the use of Twitter in Nigeria.
The lawsuit added that Mr Buhari and the other respondents “unilaterally, without due process and contrary to the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the applicant, suspended the operations of the microblogging and social media website” in Nigeria.
The association urged the court to rule that the ban on Twitter amounted to “a violent breach of the applicant’s right to freedom of expression and the press, guaranteed under sections 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended 2011), articles 9 of the African Chater on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 1983 as well as Articles 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights”.
It also urged the court to declare that the threat by the government to prosecute and jail any Nigerian found using the microblogging site within Nigeria’s cyberspace “amounted to a breach of the applicant’s right to a fair hearing and right not to be tried and convicted for an offence not prescribed in written law.”
It also prayed for an order “setting aside the purported directives/fiat/order” issued by the respondents banning the use of microblogging and social media websites in Nigeria’s cyberspace.
Mr Nduka said the matter has been adjourned till October 4 for hearing.
This suspension of Twitter had taken effect from June 4, 2021 “as all access to the microblogging and social media website, “Twitter” of www.twitter.com ceased in the Nigerian cyberspace,” Charles Mekwunye, leader of NBA’s legal team stated.
By Abel Ejikeme